Apple iPhone XS Max allegedly explodes in Ohio man's pocket

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2018
The first public account of the battery catastrophically failing in an iPhone XS Max has surfaced, and may result in legal action after Apple refused to replace the device for free when the owner wanted to retain the destroyed device.

Front of exploded iPhone XS Max (credit: Josh Hillard and iDrop News)
Front of exploded iPhone XS Max (credit: Josh Hillard and iDrop News)


A three-week-old iPhone XS Max reportedly caught fire and exploded while in the pocket of an Ohio resident on December 12. A man who identified as Josh Hillard, said that he was at lunch at 3:00 p.m. when he noticed a smell and felt a "large amount of heat" and then green and yellow smoke coming from his iPhone XS Max.

"A VP of our company put the fire out with a fire extinguisher because he heard me yelling," Hillard told iDrop News. "Once the phone was extinguished, I was left with a hole in my pants, fire extinguisher on my pants/shoes, and some pain/irritation in my buttocks region where the pocket of my pants was located."

Rear of exploded iPhone XS Max (credit: Josh Hillard and iDrop News)
Rear of exploded iPhone XS Max (credit: Josh Hillard and iDrop News)


Hillard says he later took the damaged phone to an Apple Store. While the Store apparently offered him a replacement phone, he refused it unless he could also keep the damaged one. He then contacted the Apple Care support line and after providing photographs of the damage, reports that an Apple safety department supervisor "essentially offered a new phone."

Hillard says that this is insufficient, and he also wants Apple to reimburse him for his damaged pants plus the cost of his cell plan while he was unable to use the phone. The man is also reportedly considering what legal options are available regarding the incident.

It isn't clear why the battery ruptured and spewed flammable electrolyte. A battery membrane is designed to swell instead of rupturing in the case of a cell failure, and most swellings and ruptures happen under a runaway thermal condition while the device is being charged. Based on the account, given that it was in the man's pocket, it seems unlikely that it was charging.

One likely scenario is that the device bent while in the man's back pocket given that the cited pain and irritation was in the "buttocks region." This bend, if profound enough, can pierce the battery membrane resulting in what the man described. Another possibility is a failure of the cell for other reasons, such as a manufacturing problem not caught by quality assurance.

In reviewing AppleInsider's collated service data, there are no incidents of iPhone XS Max catastrophic battery failures. Given that our sample is not the entire set of Apple's repairs, plus the rarity of a battery rupture, it is possible that there have been other failures in such a manner -- but this is the first public account.

Apple has not yet commented on the incident but the description of green and yellow smoke is consistent with a battery having been broken. In February 2018, two Hong Kong Apple Store employees were hospitalized after inhaling smoke from an iPhone battery during a repair.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 36
    Sounds like he was sitting on it, not too smart if so. 
    edited December 2018 ronnSpamSandwichwatto_cobradysamoria
  • Reply 2 of 36
    This man’s an idiot, and just trying to get his 5 minutes of fame. He sits on his phone, rupturing the battery (and likely cracking the glass), and expects Apple to give him a phone, new clothes and kiss his rosey red ass (pun intended). Bye Felicia!
    racerhomie3mobiusronnpujones1berndogwatto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 36
    I wonder what the reason is for Josh Hilliard wanting to keep the damaged iPhone?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 36
    neilmneilm Posts: 569member
    Sitting on your phone is a dumb-ass thing to do, and in this case burned dumb-ass. All the more so with a large phone like the Xs Max, where the bending leverage is greater.

    I'm not surprised that Apple wanted the phone back as part of the warranty process. How else are they going to analyze failures? I'm betting that if you read the warranty fine print — and we've all done that, right? </s> — that there's a clause to that effect.
    edited December 2018 ronnwatto_cobraviclauyycdysamoriaargonaut
  • Reply 5 of 36
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,894member
    This is yet another case study in bad human behavior. No doubt that the man suffered damage to his personal property and potentially incurred some unexpected health care related expenses. He should be compensated for his losses and Apple will no doubt do so without hesitation. But then greed and opportunism sets in: "The man is also reportedly considering what legal options are available regarding the incident" and that's where his true colors shine through. It is no longer sufficient that Apple "make it right" and ensure that he walks away unscathed - the guy now wants to turn his 15 minutes of burnt butt fame and notoriety into a financial windfall, as if he'd just scratched off the winning numbers on a lottery ticket. That's where my sympathy ends and I think the guy is starting to look like a greedy POS.

    I suppose Apple could put a big red & yellow warning sticker on the phone that says "NO SIT" that resembles the "NO STEP" warnings on aircraft wings and control surfaces. But would that really make a difference? Sorry, but Apple can't StupidProof(™)  all of their products to the degree necessary to get through to some people, like this guy in Ohio. Give him a replacement phone, a voucher for new pants, and maybe a bicycle helmet and rubber gloves so he doesn't injure himself performing routine household and office tasks. This guy is obviously a danger to himself.
    pujones1radarthekatwatto_cobraviclauyycdavgregargonaut
  • Reply 6 of 36
    Good luck on the lawsuit.
    watto_cobradavgreg
  • Reply 7 of 36
    dewmedewme Posts: 1,894member
    neilm said:
    Sitting on your phone is a dumb-ass thing to do, and in this case burned dumb-ass. All the more so with a large phone like the Xs Max, where the bending leverage is greater.

    I'm not surprised that Apple wanted the phone back as part of the warranty process. How else are they going to analyze failures? I'm betting that if you read the warranty fine print — and we've all done that, right? </s> — that there's a clause to that effect.
    I'd bet they want the butt damaged phone back to ensure that the compromised battery is properly handled and disposed of in an environmentally friendly manner.  
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 36
    vmarksvmarks Posts: 646editor
    In the old days, Apple would offer something else as a part of the apology, up to the rep's discretion. In an Apple store, this could be like, "pick something else off the shelves", while on the phone it would be, "Do you listen to music? Could I send you some speakers as an apology?" - here, he wanted some money for pants and some money for the cell service he was going to be billed for but couldn't use with a damaged phone. If they had tried to give him a product, and then let him return the product, he'd have had the cash he was asking for.

    But he probably got a brusque, over-worked genius before getting the Apple Safety Engineer, was likely in a bad mood to begin with, and the whole encounter felt bad to him. I can see why he walked away. The "we'll replace your iphone" was presumed. "we aren't going to do anything else for you" was an insult from his standpoint.

    What this highlights to me is that Apple Store reps aren't given enough latitude to extinguish situations where emotions are inflamed.
    edited December 2018 muthuk_vanalingamcaladanianpujones1radarthekatargonaut
  • Reply 9 of 36
    MacProMacPro Posts: 17,868member
    I agree with all above and I am sure the evidence he sat on it, bent it, damaged the battery causing the fire is branded on his ass.
      
    pujones1watto_cobraargonaut
  • Reply 10 of 36
    MplsPMplsP Posts: 998member
    The XS Max hasn't been out that long but like the article says, there haven't been a significant number of reports, so there doesn't seem to be a widespread problem with the batteries. Either this was an isolated defective battery, or it was bent/damaged.

    Apple offered to replace the device, and requesting the damaged device is standard practice. The fact that Hillard refused to turn in the old phone makes me suspect he is more interested in suing than anything else.
    watto_cobradanhargonaut
  • Reply 11 of 36
    If you haven’t seen it, there’s a wonderful NOVA on the subject of modern batteries. An excellent primer. 

    This guy’s insistence on keeping the “evidence” indicates he is more interested in a payday than just letting Apple make things better for all of us by forensically examining the device. What ever happened to the greater good—the sense of community? 
    edited December 2018 radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 36
    This guy’s insistence on keeping the “evidence” indicates he is more interested in a payday than just letting Apple make things better for all of us by forensically examining the device. What ever happened to the greater good—the sense of community? 
    I can only think of a few warranties (for low end devices) where the original device doesn't have to be returned by the seller - they have to certify it was destroyed. Ones where the consumer isn't required to return the item are extremely rare.
    radarthekatdysamoria
  • Reply 13 of 36
    In a day and age where you have idiots shooting holes in their Tesla batteries...yeah, Apple is going to ask for the phone back for analysis.
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 36
    I wonder what the reason is for Josh Hilliard wanting to keep the damaged iPhone?
    Even though it at first seems reasonable that a replaced device actually is replaced (giving the company a chance to both recoup some of the loss and to thoroughly  investigate the problem), it also covers their asses by sort of removing the evidence.

    So… actually being able to replace a broken device shouldn't been seen as a "you owe me"-type of a deal, but rather a new transaction that the customer is making with the company. You are giving them what failed to live up to your expectations in return for something. That might be part of a generous open return policy, or it might be in lieu of you suing them for getting your pants set on fire.

    In the latter case the legal situation might not be that you actually clear them off everything, making it impossible for you to sue them; but handing them the evidence might practically speaking basically be the same as if you did.
  • Reply 15 of 36
    Mike WuertheleMike Wuerthele Posts: 4,078administrator
    svanstrom said:
    I wonder what the reason is for Josh Hilliard wanting to keep the damaged iPhone?
    Even though it at first seems reasonable that a replaced device actually is replaced (giving the company a chance to both recoup some of the loss and to thoroughly  investigate the problem), it also covers their asses by sort of removing the evidence.

    So… actually being able to replace a broken device shouldn't been seen as a "you owe me"-type of a deal, but rather a new transaction that the customer is making with the company. You are giving them what failed to live up to your expectations in return for something. That might be part of a generous open return policy, or it might be in lieu of you suing them for getting your pants set on fire.

    In the latter case the legal situation might not be that you actually clear them off everything, making it impossible for you to sue them; but handing them the evidence might practically speaking basically be the same as if you did.
    You know, minus the paper trail, case number, call logs, and photos by the user. It is utterly unreasonable for the victim of the problem to expect a replacement, and not expect to give up the device.
    ronnleavingthebiggradarthekatwatto_cobradysamoriaargonaut
  • Reply 16 of 36
    svanstrom said:
    I wonder what the reason is for Josh Hilliard wanting to keep the damaged iPhone?
    Even though it at first seems reasonable that a replaced device actually is replaced (giving the company a chance to both recoup some of the loss and to thoroughly  investigate the problem), it also covers their asses by sort of removing the evidence.

    So… actually being able to replace a broken device shouldn't been seen as a "you owe me"-type of a deal, but rather a new transaction that the customer is making with the company. You are giving them what failed to live up to your expectations in return for something. That might be part of a generous open return policy, or it might be in lieu of you suing them for getting your pants set on fire.

    In the latter case the legal situation might not be that you actually clear them off everything, making it impossible for you to sue them; but handing them the evidence might practically speaking basically be the same as if you did.
    You know, minus the paper trail, case number, call logs, and photos by the user. It is utterly unreasonable for the victim of the problem to expect a replacement, and not expect to give up the device.
    And that's a choice that they're making. It's a new deal… they either accept what they're offered (in most cases including that the old device needs to be returned), or they pursue whatever other options are available to them.

    I'm just trying to be very neutral about what's going on here.

    Practically speaking though… there are basically just two options why he might want to keep the old phone; it's either because he doesn't want Apple to be able to figure out that it was his, not Apple's, fault that this happened, or because he wants to both get a free device upfront AND sue them. In either case his first step is to make the demand, and to try to put some PR-pressure on them to give him what he wants.

    (A third option could of course be that there's data on the phone that he really really really doesn't want anyone to possibly be able to recover; but then he's just plain stupid for pushing Apple like this.)
  • Reply 17 of 36
    If you haven’t seen it, there’s a wonderful NOVA on the subject of modern batteries. An excellent primer. 

    This guy’s insistence on keeping the “evidence” indicates he is more interested in a payday than just letting Apple make things better for all of us by forensically examining the device. What ever happened to the greater good—the sense of community? 
    Is that the NOVA episode from a few years ago?  It was very informative.  Liked some of the future battery tech discussed there.
    edited December 2018 watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 36
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,387member
    I wonder what the reason is for Josh Hilliard wanting to keep the damaged iPhone?
    As evidence in a future lawsuit. 
  • Reply 19 of 36
    zoetmbzoetmb Posts: 2,387member
    In a day and age where you have idiots shooting holes in their Tesla batteries...yeah, Apple is going to ask for the phone back for analysis.
    ???  I searched online and didn't see any stories about people shooting holes in their Tesla batteries.   Why would anyone do that except perhaps if it was an already damaged battery that was removed from a car.   A Tesla battery is incredibly expensive.   It would make more sense if someone was shooting holes in someone else's Tesla battery.


  • Reply 20 of 36
    bellsbells Posts: 108member
    I wonder what the reason is for Josh Hilliard wanting to keep the damaged iPhone?
    The guy is an idiot. First, Apple isn't going to replace a phone without keeping the damaged one. Apple will want to investigate the cause of the damage. Second, the phone looks slightly bent from the picture. Maybe from the guy sitting on it. Who sits on their phone and expects somebody else to pay for it? Third, if it were Apple's fault, it would only have to pay for his actual damage, which  doesn't sound like very much. 
    radarthekatwatto_cobra
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